With its diverse population, Malaysian cuisine offers a rich melting pot of flavours and ranks amongst the most delicious and tastiest in Asia.
With a palate underpinned by a wide diversity of influences including Chinese, Indian and Portuguese, not to mention the many spices characteristic of South East Asian food, the country is rightly emerging as a food-lovers' paradise – and makes for some very exciting eating!
Here are our top five must-try dishes!
No visit to Malaysia is complete without trying Peranakan/Nonya cuisine. Peranakans are descendants of early the Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Indonesia and Singapore intermarrying with local Malays. The old Malay word Nyonya is a term of respect and affection for women of prominent social standing (part Madame and part Auntie), and has come to refer to the cuisine of the Peranakans.
One of the best-known and most popular Nyonya dishes is the famous Laksa noodle soup, with its rich coconut curry base. The veritable minestrone of South Asia, Laksas can feature anything tofu puffs, fish shrimps through to chicken pieces and of course, noodles and lots of delicious Asian vegetables. It's typically served with a generous spoonful of chili paste or sambal, and garnished with coriander, or kaffir lime leaf. Laksa is the perfect winter warmer or the go-to dish when your taste buds are dying for some fresh, spicy flavours.
Ubiquitous throughout Malaysia, Mie Goreng is almost the de facto national dish. This Indonesian one-dish meal favorite is made with spicy fried noodles garlic, shallots, prawn, chicken, pork, beef or sliced bakso (meatballs), chili, cabbage, tomatoes, egg, and other vegetables, and sold by everyone from street-hawkers to high-end
restaurants. Order a bowl and feel like a native.
It is hard to ignore Malaysian cuisine's Indian influences. Roti is one of the most popular snacks throughout the country. Often sold in Mamak restaurants or stalls, it's a kind of flatbread made out of dough, ghee (similar to butter), egg, flour and water and watching it being made is almost as much fun as eating it! Expert Roti makers knead ingredients together, before effortlessly twirling and throwing dough up in the air, to produce huge flat discs, which are then folded and cooked. While traditionally Roti can be consumed with just about any type of curry, the most popular way for Indian Malaysians to eat it is with dhal and chili, accompanied by a variety of toppings and fillings, including eggs, banana, sardines and onion.
CHAR KWAY TEOW
Originally a staple of Malaysia's poor, Char Kway Teow has evolved into one of the country's most loved dishes.
The name is derived from the Hokkien term for -fried' which is -char, while -kway teow' refers to the -flat rice
noodles', which are the main ingredient. The latter are stir-fried over very high heat with soy sauce, chili, while
prawns, de-shelled cockles, bean sprouts, Chinese chives and eggs. While there are many versions of this tasty dish, Penang's Char Kway Teow tops the list when it comes to taste and originality. Not convinced? Visit Georgetown, try a plate and see for yourself.
Our last dish on the list, Nasi Lemak, is considered by many Malaysians to be part of their national heritage.
Steam rice with Pandan leaves and coconut cream. Partner it with sizzling spicy sauce or sambal. Add generous sprinklings of roasted peanuts, salty dried anchovies and a hard-boiled egg, and eat it the traditional way – wrapped in banana leaves, to feel like a real local. Malaysians claim that Pandan leaves make all the difference between a good Nasi Lemak and an exceptional Nasi Lemak. Pandan leaves are incorporated liberally in many Malaysian dishes, infusing rice and desserts with their signature aroma. Try some Nasi Lemak yourself and taste the difference.
Aside from delicious food, Malaysia is a great place to visit at any time, with adventure, culture, beaches, jungle, nature and accommodation to suit every budget, friendly locals and year-round sunshine to boot.
So, Food Lovers, if you can feel your tummy rumbling already, visit tourismmalaysia.com.au, be inspired and book your holiday now.